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By Jacob Munoru

Traditional African cultural practices, previously regarded as inferior or incompetent, are increasingly gaining recognition as an important component of existing conservation strategies.

Local communities attach great value to traditional cultural practices, it is therefore apparent that official recognition of these practices will be an important factor complementing the current conservation knowledge.

Cultural factors can influence and regulate people’s behaviour towards forests or tree species and their habitats for instance among the Mt Kenya communities the Mugumo tree is considered sacred and traditional dwelling places for the Gods in some Kenyan communities are on the steep slopes of hills and mountains which are considered sacred, such beliefs and practices result in the preservation of these areas and act as important drivers of environmental change.

Traditional cultural practices among other strategies have promising potential to enhance sustainable resource use and conservation, therefore, realizing the desire for ecological and social sustainability.

Despite concerted conservation efforts, a considerable number of species is threatened with extinction mainly because of anthropogenic impacts such as deforestation, overexploitation, habitat destruction, the introduction of new exotic species and pollution.

Promotion of the use of cultural management knowledge coincides well with the philosophy of co-management approach that advocates sharing of power, rights, and responsibilities between the state and local resource users.

This argument is centred on the management capabilities of local communities and possible dangers of disregarding them. The fact that the communities have regular interactions and are more familiar with the resources in their environment than other potential actors makes them one of the best managers of the resource, who could contribute effectively to current conservation efforts.

Local communities understand the source of the water and for how long this resource can last if properly and efficiently utilized, and how to avoid acute shortages as is the case in our country now.

Traditional African cultural practices oversee and enforce community rules/regulations or taboos that when enforced, they act as a supreme court with the final say on all forest conservation matters. Their conservation role is still evident in some areas for example in Meru, the council of elders Njuri Ncheke shrine bushes, forests or woodlots and streams are well preserved, they act as carbon sinks in the areas where they are found therefore checking on pollution and global warming.

This has remained true despite cultural practices being marginalized by modern management systems and cultural dilution caused by immigration, formal education, and adaptation of modern religions.

Both colonial and post-colonial conservation policies ignored the potential role of traditional African cultural practices in contributing to conservation goals. Factors such as rapid population increase, inadequate local support for conservation policies, limited strategies for survival among the local communities and inadequate capacity of the government to fund law enforcement operations against illegal activities subject our forests to unsustainable use.

Our policymakers should, therefore, accord greater attention to traditional institutions so that local people’s conservation role is fairly acknowledged and potential synergies with conservation objectives realized.

The national and county governments should reward traditional people for sustainable conservation practices observed through their institutions and sensitize policy makers to include traditional conservation practices in conservation Agenda.

The practices both modern Silvicultural forest Management principles and the African traditional cultural practices in conservation are one of multiple strategies for complementing rather than replacing existing central management systems.

The Pan African Climate Change Alliance has just concluded stakeholder consultations on climate advocacy and inputs into national and regional strategic climate change processes as well as an organisation capacity assessment that was conducted on our chapters in eight countries.

The PACJA team visited chapters in Ethiopia, Botswana, Gabon, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, and Zambia.

The move by PACJA is aimed at creating strong pillars in countries hosting Regional Economic Integration Communities (RECs) and Pan African Institutions to ensure consistent and sustainable outreach, where civil society and communities at the frontline of climate change impacts play proactive role.

In its strategic Plan 2016 -- 2020, PACJA has identified the African Union and other key Pan African Institutions, UN Agencies in Africa, together with Regional Economic Integration Communities (RECs) as key inter-governmental continental actors to engage, lobby and/or support in its ambitious vision for a an inclusive, pro-poor, people-centred, equitable, climate-resilient low-carbon development pathways. 

The organisation assessment was aimed at strengthening the capacities of National Platforms and creating linkages with governments and countries hosting the headquarters of these institutions.

PACJA is a continental coalition of Civil Society Organizations from diverse backgrounds in Africa. 

Founded in 2008, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance has emerged as the most vibrant and largest Civil Society platform in climate change and sustainable development, with a membership of more than 1000 organizations and networks.

The Alliance brings together Faith-based Organizations, Community-based organizations, Non-Governmental organizations, Trusts, Foundations, Farmers and Pastoralist Groups among other sectors.

The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance is this week taking part in an expert meeting to assess the progress made in the process to formulate and implement the national adaptation plans. 

PACJA is represented in the meeting that is taking part from 7-9 February 2018 at Hotel Praia in Sao Tome and Principe.

The meeting comes just months before the subsidiary body for implementation (SBI) 48th session that will be held between April and May 2018.

During the session, the SBI will assess progress made in the process to formulate and implement national adaptation plans (NAPs) with a view to making recommendations thereon to the Conference of Parties (COP).

As part of the actions and steps for the assessment, the COP requested the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG), in collaboration with the Adaptation Committee, to organize a meeting of Party experts, to consider the progress made towards the achievement of the objectives of the process to formulate and implement NAPs, experiences, best practices, lessons learned, gaps and needs, and support provided and received, with a view to providing a summary of progress made in the process to formulate and implement NAPs.

By Jacob Munoru

Every few years, the issue of deforestation and illegal logging comes up in the news, and then dies a natural death, buried under other more ‘important’ issues until it comes back up sooner or later.

I was alerted to the resurgence of this issue after I came across an online petition by conservationists seeking to stop the legal felling of trees in the Mt Kenya forest.

The conservationists, who have so far garnered 3,398 signatures according to a brief on the Daily Nation (Thursday, January 18), want the Kenya Forest Service to stop the logging and conserve the forest.

At the same time, the Sengwer community that lives in Embobut Forest is facing eviction from their homes in the name of forest conservation, with the ongoing conflict between the Kenya Forest Service officers and the community members allegedly resulting in the death of a herder on Wednesday.

The question therefore begs, is there a way to conserve forests while still benefiting from the resource and securing the homes of forest-dwelling communities?

Many of the world’s forests and woodlots mainly in the tropics and subtropics (read Africa or East Africa to be precise) are not managed sustainably. Most countries in the region lack appropriate forest policies, legislation, institutional framework and incentives to promote sustainable forest management.

Where forest management plans exist, they are limited to ensuring the sustainable production of wood, without paying attention to the many other products and services that forests offer. Alternative land uses like Agriculture and Real estate developments seems to be financially more attractive in the short run than forest management, motivating deforestation and land use changes. The World Food and Agriculture organization (FAO), helps to identify, test and promote innovative, multipurpose forest management approaches and techniques that respond to mitigating and adapting to a changing climate.

Sustainable forest management means environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of forests for present and future generations. Sustainable forest management addresses forest degradation and deforestation while increasing direct benefits to people and environment. At the social level, sustainable forest management contributes to livelihoods, income generation, and employment. At the environmental level, it contributes to important services such as carbon sequestration (carbon sinks) and water, soil and biodiversity conservation. Managing forests sustainably means increasing their benefits, including timber, food and medicine to meet society needs in a way that conserves maintaining the forest ecosystem as well as climate change mainstreaming for the benefit of the present and future generations.

Good forest conservation management promotes climate change mainstreaming. Forests play a crucial role in the Hydrological cycle, influencing the availability of water, regulating surface and groundwater flows and maintaining high water quality. Forest and trees, in general, reduce water-related risks such as landslides, local floods and droughts and help prevent desertification and salinization.

Our country’s tree cover is below 10 per cent, hence the many adverse effects of climate change like floods, droughts, repetitive crop failures for many years, unreliable rainfall patterns and amounts, ice caps disappearing from our high mountains and frequent outbreaks of both human and livestock diseases- but- our government has set a good target of increasing the forest cover to reach 10 per cent within the soonest time possible. To the general public and all stakeholders ( CSOs, Bilateral and Multilateral partners ) concerted efforts should be in place to help in attaining the 10 per cent forest cover to arrest the negative effects of climate change via the practice of sustainable forest management.

Sustainable forest management and climate change mainstreaming are evolving processes and the parameters defining them change over time based on latest scientific knowledge and societies understanding of the concepts. Forest ecosystems are complex and influenced by numerous external factors; also different regions of the world require different sustainable strategies; therefore the criteria for sustainable forest management must constantly adapt to new circumstances, as well as social, economic, political, cultural and spiritual dimensions. Climate change mainstreaming is essential to address the serious effects of climate change which affect Man and the environments in the world mainly due to anthropogenic reasons.

Our hope of securing the environment while still benefiting from our forest resources therefore lies in formulating policies and strategies that are appropriate for our region and country and are socially acceptable so that communities are not disenfrinchised and our environment is not completely destroyed.

About the Author: Jacob Munoru is a Forest Management Expert working with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility project at the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance

This article was first published on the Daily Nation

PEMBA, Zambia (PAMACC News) - Grace Moonga harvested 115 by 50 Kg bags of maize last season. And it was enough for family food consumption and sale for income generation to support her second year University student son.

But she is afraid that this year’s farming season is turning out negative—a prolonged dry spell affecting her 3-hectare maize field.

“Just look at this crop,” lamentsMoonga, pointing at her severely wilted crop. “It has been 22 days since it last rained here. This is a serious disaster for a widow like me whose only source of income is farming, I don’t even know what will become of my son at the University.”

Since 2007 when her husband died, Moonga has been supporting her six children through smallholder farming. So far, her firstborn son has completed his teaching course, while the university student was only in primary five when his father died.

However, dependency on rainfall is increasingly becoming a risky business for smallholder farmers as erratic rainfall punctuated with prolonged dry spells has become the norm rather than an exception. For instance, the 2015/16 farming season was characterized by the El Nino induced drought. While 2016/17 season restored some hope with normal to above normal rainfall, the 2017/18 season is turning out negative—a prolonged dry spell which according to the Zambia Meteorological Department, has caused substantial moisture deficits and an increased likelihood for adverse crop production.

According to Zambia Meteorological Department, the prolonged dry spell being experienced over Lusaka, Southern, Western and Southern parts of Central and Eastern Provinces have been largely due to atmospheric systems – the consecutive occurrence of deep low-pressure systems and tropical cyclones over the Mozambique channel and the Indian ocean.

Unfortunately, the forecast up to March 2018 remains negative as abnormal dryness has strengthened and expanded, placing additional moisture stress on crops, especially at critical stages of growth.

Nevertheless, good as this forecast may be, it largely remains generic and scientific for smallholder farmers to easily interpret. It is for this reason that climate change development actors have been advocating for improved climate information and other climate-resilient services such as insurance for smallholder farmers.

In Zambia, one such institution working in this area is the World Food Programme (WFP). Under its R4—Rural Resilience Initiative, WFP has installed automated and manual weather stations in selected project areas to facilitate improved meteorological information for smallholder farmers.

Mosco Hamalambo is a trained rain gauge attendant at Sibajene village, one of the 20 manual rain gauge stations dotted around Pemba district. He believes the weather stations have improved farmers’ knowledge especially on the time to plant.

“With this facility, we now have readily available information when we should plant our crops,” Hamalambo told PAMACC News. “Even as we are experiencing this dry spell, we have the information on how much rainfall we have received and how poorly distributed it has been.”

Hamalambosays such information is helpful for comparison with satellite data on which weather index insurance is based—another component of the R4 project where farmers are enrolled for a possible pay-out if they do not receive required amounts of rainfall in a set and agreed window of the farming season.

In terms of amounts of rainfall, 400 mm of rainfall received in the area is enough for optimum production of maize according to Stanley Ndhlovu,

WFP Zambia R4 Coordinator. However, “the challenge has been distribution, it has been very erratic.”It is however not yet clear whether the index would trigger for a pay-out. Close to 4000 farmers are enrolled on the R4 project weather index insurance scheme. 
In the meantime, Grace Moonga is hoping and praying for some heavy downpour as she still believes something could be salvaged from her wilted crop—thanks to Conservation Agriculture (CA) which she practices. Under CA, minimum tillage and mulching practices help to retain moisture for crops to withstand prolonged dry spells.

Considering the elongated dry spell experienced, Moonga knows that what could be salvaged would still not be enough, hence placing her last hope in weather insurance. “From what we were taught about how this insurance works, I am hopeful that we might receive a pay-out this year,” she says enthusiastically.

The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance is today holding a meeting on climate change resilience and adaptation in Embu County. 

The meeting that is being organized under the Trocaire-funded Community Resilience And Climate Change Adaptation project is geared at engaging stakeholders including policymakers to develop climate change policies that take Natural Resource Management into consideration.

The meetings come just a day after similar meetings were held in Kitui and Tharaka Nithi counties with a view of building community resilience to climate change.

PACJA, being the most knowledgeable African civil society coalition in the context of climate policy influence, is working with key stakeholders in Tharaka Nithi, Embu and Kitui Counties to establish County “best fit’’ Climate Change policies in each the three Counties.

In implementing the project, PACJA’s role is to support community members and Natural Resource Management (NRM) groups to participate in and have influence over decision-making processes on NRM, agricultural development and climate change adaptation at community and County levels, in particular policy-making, planning and budget allocation as well as support partners to influence County and national government departments to develop climate-sensitive policies, laws, plans and budgets that support community resilience and adaptive capacity.

PACJA further strives to provide technical support to government officials at the County level to develop policies, legislation, plans and budgets that support climate change adaptation, climate-sensitive resilience building and natural resource management.

The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance is today (Monday) holding a workshop on climate change mainstreaming at Ngong Hills Hotel in Nairobi.

The meeting brings together key stakeholders – government representatives, civil society, academia and members of the private sector - to interrogate the state of affairs of climate change mainstreaming processes.

The workshop will look deeply into Kenya’s implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions and the efforts counties are making in the transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient green development. 

This workshop is expected to facilitate relationships between the Civil Society Organisations and the new county governments in working towards Climate Change Governance at the county level.

The networks and recommendations developed will add to PACJA’s work of enhancing Climate Change Governance in Kenya.

The meeting has been convened under the project on Improving Civil Society Engagements in Mainstreaming Climate Change at National and county level sectorial policies and programmes that are currently being implemented by PACJA with funding support from Act Change Transform (ACT!). 

Through this project, being implemented both at the national level and in two counties, Baringo and Turkana, PACJA is working in collaboration with relevant government ministries including the Ministry of Environment & Natural Resources, Ministry of Water, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Energy, the Private sector, Academia and other civil society organisations from the national and county level.

Climate change mainstreaming is a process facilitated by institutions such as sectorial agencies, county/national governments and non-state actors.

The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance is today (Friday) convening the Africa Regional Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) Consultative Workshop on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

The workshop, which will be held at Sunland Hotel in the city, is aimed at facilitating the sharing of experiences and lessons learned from civil society organisations across Africa in the REDD+ Readiness processes.

The workshop was organised under an FCPF-funded project aimed at building the capacity of African Civil Society and Local Communities on REDD+ that is currently being implemented by PACJA.

The beneficiaries of the project are Southern CSO networks and organisations from the 18 FCPF eligible countries in Africa. PACJA, the CSOs Intermediary and implementing agency, is focusing national level activities on five countries namely: Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Togo and Mozambique and Madagascar.

This unique convergence with policymakers among other stakeholders during the AU Summit will accord an opportunity to an array of actors drawn from diverse backgrounds – women, youth, indigenous peoples, and smallholder farmers – to interrogate the extent to which the Paris Agreement is capable of delivering a stabilized climate system in such a time frame as to avoid irreversible global warming and the implications of the Paris Agreement for Africa.

Debates on such mechanisms like REDD+ have not yet found adequate space in high-level policy processes in African countries, and this is one of the rare opportunities to create awareness to the policymakers and other stakeholders from across Africa.

The FCPF regional meeting will, therefore, in addition to knowledge exchange, be a platform to expand conversations and broaden partnerships around REDD+ readiness processes while at the same time contributing towards the Africa Union Summit agenda. 

You can download the meeting's concept note here.

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